The Keys to Good Customer Service
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Service advocate…
Last week we discussed the meaning of customer service, our expectations of the customer service representatives and their shortcomings. 
We also mentioned that the representative’s shortcomings, as we view them, are truly a reflection of the organisation itself.  Therefore, we ask the question: how does one ensure that great customer service is delivered at all times?

The answer to this question is what differentiates companies.  How many times have you found yourself in a position where you would rather go out of your way, distance-wise, to get to a business place where you know that you will absolutely receive good, consistent service?  Or, are there not times when you would not mind spending a few extra dollars in a store or supermarket just for the pleasure of being around courteous staff members? 

Take a minute to think about it.  We have personally done this many times.  We have even stopped patronising places of business because of poor customer service.  Bear in mind that customer service, as mentioned last week, means different things to different people – it all boils down to what we as customers want and need and what we hold as paramount to our satisfaction. 

Is it simply the product?  Or friendly staff?  How about knowledgeable staff?  Or maybe staff members who remember our names or our favourite items off a menu?  Customers are people first; they have a need to feel important  and they will gravitate to those who make them feel this way.
As Management Scientist Peter Drucker said, “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it.  It is what the client or customer gets out of it”.

We will briefly discuss four (4) keys of good customer service which should be practiced every day, the first of which is TRUST.  What does this mean to you as a customer?  Do you prefer to frequent an establishment where you can trust the staff that they will advise you correctly?  You may more quickly relate this key to pharmacies and doctor’s offices but it can be applied in every business. 

We may not immediately think of TRUST being a deciding factor when we go to supermarkets or restaurants or hotels but give it some thought…we frequent the establishments we do because we feel secure that they will sell a good quality product, that they will use ingredients that are within the “use by” dates, that they will clean and sanitise the rooms and that they tell us the truth when we ask questions.

It also helps that staff members are understanding of our concerns and they address them with respect and patience. 

We all like to do business with people we trust and it is the employees within that organisation who create and foster that trust.  They are the front line persons who interact with customers and build that trust through personal experience.  Therefore, the employees within an organisation are seen to be the key persons who have a major role in the reputation that a business develops over time.

The second important key is KNOWLEDGE.  Isn’t it a joy to go into a business place, be it a restaurant, office or store, and you encounter a knowledgeable sales person?  That shopping experience is made so much better that you more than likely tell the next person you meet, or the next few friends.

A chain of curious persons craving a good customer service experience is created and they all remember that the next time they need that particular product or service, they are going directly to that store you mentioned! 

Knowledgeable staff can also be found over the telephone.  It is most annoying to be transferred to extension after extension and, of course, at each transfer you need to repeat your humble request because information is not being communicated.

As customers, we expect that if you are employed at a certain organisation, you possess the information or at least know how to access information that may be needed.  Customers have a simple request of wanting to talk with someone who knows what he or she is talking about.  And if you do not know the answer, it is okay!  Just say so but offer a solution.  This is just one way how businesses develop a following and keep regular customers.  It is not done though luck or chance or minimal effort, it is done through consistency and care and attention.

The third key, and one that is so obvious, is FRIENDLINESS.  Yet, it seems that it is very hard to meet friendly sales associates or clerks or waiters.  When we meet friendly employees, our first reaction is to smile.  Most of us appreciate a friendly face but some of us treat these sales representatives quite unfairly, especially if we are having a bad day.  Just as we do not expect an employee’s bad mood to affect their level of service to us, we should not let our bad moods affect how we speak or react to a sales associate who is trying to assist.

The fourth key to good customer service is EFFICIENCY.  We all want to do business with persons who respect our time.  We expect prompt service, but we do not wish to feel rushed.  This can be applied to the restaurant industry where we as customers expect that our needs will be anticipated and we look forward to that! 

We all look forward to the pieces of advice on which wine to have with which dish, the special we should try and which desert we should absolutely must not pass up.  These little things create our personal customer service experience.

However, to achieve this, staff must possess the KNOWLEDGE so that they could deliver the service EFFICIENTLY because we love to be around FRIENDLY persons who we can TRUST. 

To get to this stage, employers must recognise the importance of training because without the proper training, how could you expect your staff to deliver the type of service that is memorable? 

The entire organisation has to work together to achieve the common goal as stated on the Mission Statement, and this includes the Management Team.  Employees are an organisation’s greatest asset and the most valuable investment that employers can make is to provide information on the industry’s best practices through training.

Isn’t it true that the goal of being in the hospitality industry is to create memorable experiences and to ensure that patrons keep returning?
(Nadine King and Tameca Sukhdeo-Singh can be contacted via email at: cru@networksgy.com)

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